Chrtistian Aid Warns of Risks of Genetically Modified Food

By Pulford, Cedric | Anglican Journal, September 1999 | Go to article overview

Chrtistian Aid Warns of Risks of Genetically Modified Food


Pulford, Cedric, Anglican Journal


London

The international development agency Christian Aid has warned that genetically modified foods are a threat to farmers in the developing world and, contrary to commercial claims, are not the answer to world hunger problems.

Christian Aid also says genetically modified foods are being released for public sale in the West without adequate research and safeguards. It is appealing for consumers in the West to unite with the farmers of the developing world in a campaign against genetically modified foods.

The findings appear in a report, Selling Suicide, issued by the London-based charity which is supported by Great Britain's main Christian denominations.

Genetic modification, whereby the characteristics of a plant are altered by introducing an external gene, is intended to increase resistance to pests or improve desirable qualities. The world's most famous genetically modified product is Monsanto's Roundup Ready soya, which as a growing crop can be sprayed with the herbicide Roundup, although this kills all other plants. Supporters say the technique is only an extension of hybridising plants, which has been practised for centuries. Opponents argue the introduction of genes from other species, even animals, has unknowable consequences and potentially grave knock-on effects throughout the entire ecosystem.

The British Medical Association has demanded an indefinite moratorium. However, a leading British specialist body, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, recently said there was a "compelling moral imperative" to make genetically modified crops available in developing countries to combat hunger, and found no grounds for a moratorium on commercial plantings.

Andrew Simms, author of the Christian Aid report, told ENI: "This is a very pivotal time. Commercial plantings of genetically modified crops have not gone too far yet, but the world will have to decide whether it prefers the dogma of free trade or the precautionary principle (where a technology is not allowed until it has been proved to be safe).

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